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King of Small Chops, Afolaranmi Michael Speaks, “How 12 Baskets Became A Household Name”



Having grown up in a family with catering business, the  Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of 12 Baskets Foods, Mr. Afolaranmi Michael, decided to go into the business 15 years ago.

12 Baskets has since carved a niche for itself as a leading small chops catering outfit in Lagos and Abuja.

In this interview he granted Oladipupo Awojobi, soft-spoken and amiable Michael speaks on how he started the business and his future plans.

Can we meet you

My name is Afolaranmi Michael and I am the Chairman, CEO of 12 Baskets Foods with branches in Lagos Island, Ikeja and Abuja. I am happily married with five children. I graduated from the Polytechnic Ibadan, where I studied marketing before I went to study in Houston Texas, in the United States of America to study.

What does 12 baskets do

It is a finger food company known as small chops in Nigeria. We do spring rolls, Samosa, chicken barbecue, gizzards, snails and the likes. We do all kinds of small chops.

What motivated you into the business generally

The story began at birth. My mother had a restaurant and I was in-charge as a young man. I am the first child of the family. After schooling, I thought of what to do. The business started after my graduation. I could not get a job because of the qualification I had. At that time, it was difficult for holders of HND certificate to get jobs in Nigeria. There was no opportunity for us then, so I decided to go into catering business.

How old is 12 Baskets now and what are the challenges of the job

12 Baskets would be 15 years old in November, 2018. We started in November, 2003. If I start talking about the challenges now we might not get to the end of this interview. But, generally challenges keep us on our toes until one gets to the next level.

Would you say it has all been smooth all the way, and would you advice anyone to go into the business just like that

Determining the business you want to do depends on passion for the job. If you have passion for it, you can go into it. The best occupation is doing what you love to do best. This is the best thing I can do. I cannot be doing journalism like you.

How big is 12 Baskets

We have about 140 staff, in Lagos Island, we have about 90 staff, in Ikeja, we have 40 and we are still growing.

Who are your notable clients

Everybody is our notable client. As long as you patronise us, we will recognize you. Our customers are many. We are like a one customer company. Everybody is our customer.

How do you think the government can come in to help small scale businesses

When we started, we didn’t have support from anybody. The support we had was from well-wishers. The number one people that supported us were the press and people that tell others about us so that we could have repeat sales. We didn’t get support from the government so to say. As we were making the money, we were investing it into the business. Our government should come up with an entrepreneurial programme that will make our youths believe in themselves and belief in the government of the day. But, the Lagos State Government is trying, some people come to 12 Baskets to do their internship training. So, the government should do something about encouraging small scale businessmen and women.

Are you thinking of going into training for upcoming people

We have been doing training from inception. We have 12 Baskets Academy. It is located on Lagos Island, but we are reorganising it so that it can be affiliated to a school abroad. We have certificates to give to them, but we want to upgrade it to begin to award diploma. We have 12 Baskets Entertainment, 12 Baskets Academy, 12 Baskets Property and others.

Do you have any plan for expansion

Yes, we were supposed to open a branch in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but due we stopped due to some hitches. We want a time when 12 Baskets would be a household name in Nigeria such as the likes of Mr. Biggs. Even you can buy a franchise of the company in the nearest future, may be in the next 5 years.

What are the other things that keep you busy apart from your job

The best way I relax is to go out with my family, I also go to church because I am a lover of God.

Do you plan to go into politics to test your popularity

A good businessman does not test his popularity with politics. A businessman is a businessman and a politician is a politician. A businessman can never be a politician and a politician cannot be a businessman. For now, I cannot contest for any political office. I am a leader in my business and in the church. I don’t want to be voted for. But, I can accept a Special Adviser to the President on Food Matters.

What is your advice to the Nigerian Government on agriculture and good production

The government is actually trying, but change is the only constant thing in life and when change comes, you have to go in line with it bit by bit. We did not experience recession that much because the government made everything available to us in Nigeria for our business.

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